It was at the beginning of our weekly meditation class when our teacher, as was her habit, began the session by sharing a proverb.
“A man noticed a horse with its rider galloping towards him at great speed.
As the horse and rider drew level closer, the man asked, “Where are you going to in such haste?”
The rider replied, “I do not know. To wherever the horse is taking me.”
How often have you found yourself sucked into the whirlpool of tasks and items on your agenda, spiralling around at break-neck speed, hoping that you won’t trip yourself up in the process?
I used to run. A lot.
I ran to catch the bus. I ran to get into school before the bell rang. I ran to catch up with my friends who were walking ahead. I ran to the library to avoid paying a late fine.
I also tripped. A lot.
My knees were testimony to my numerous trips and stumbles. Scab upon scab. I worried I would be hideously scarred for life.
It didn’t occur to me to slow down and stop running.
If you’ve been feeling that the pace of change has sped up during this time of the pandemic, you’d be right. McKinsey has reported how organisations have increased their rate of digital transformation by x 20-25 over the last couple of years thanks in no small part to Covid.
This is because the pandemic crystallised what needed to be prioritised and implemented immediately for businesses and organisations to survive and get ready for what lied ahead.
Along with digital transformation, the other necessity for the future of work has been the understanding of the need for the workplace to become human-centric, focusing on the unique human talents of creativity, innovation, and collaboration.
But this is where the need for speed, needs to be reviewed.
For too long people have been treated as resources, to be chewed up and used and spat out when they need to be replaced.
If you couldn’t keep up, you would be at risk of being chastised, asked to pull your socks up or worse still, be “performance managed.”
High performers have been burning out at an alarming rate.
It’s time to stop blaming the individual for the company’s ignorance in understanding, that to get the best out of your employees, it’s about providing the right environment with adequate support and resources, rather than wringing them out like a wet towel.
Because one of the worst aspects of burning out is knowing you’re heading for disaster, that how you are spending your time is unsustainable and yet you feel compelled to keep going and do more.
The whole situation is bonkers.
It’s bonkers because it costs a lot of money and time to hire new talent.
How much would an organisation save by taking better care of existing talent and putting in place the opportunities to enable every individual to realise their unique potential?
And how much more attractive will your workplace be, when good job design and support, means your workplace becomes a magnet for top talent?
It’s bonkers because of the damage burnout does to people.
Recovery from burnout can be very slow.
I was lucky. It only took me twelve months to recover to a point where I could function normally. I’ve heard of others hospitalised for weeks or months and others taking several years to get to that point.
What a waste of human potential and wellbeing.
“Is there an answer?” I hear you ask.
But there’s a few things to get clear on first.
- Burnout is an “occupational syndrome” resulting from exposure to chronic unmitigated stress. No one in their right mind would take on a role expecting to burnout because of unrealistic expectations, excessive stress and demands and insufficient resources or support.
- Organisational health and wellbeing must be led from the top, modelled and frequently reviewed.
- Prevention is the aim. Sure, anyone diagnosed with burnout or identified as being at risk needs early intervention to receive the help they need. But, and it’s BIG BUT, the key is all about recognising the potential risks and taking the necessary steps to remove the hazard.
- As people, let’s throw out the outmoded and unhelpful terms like “human resources” Good grief. Identifying champions for health wellbeing and performance begins by treating employees as grown-ups and addressing those fundamental needs that drive motivation and enjoyment of work.
Burnout not only needs to be made redundant, but it also needs to be made an offence for businesses or organisations to knowingly put people at risk.
Is your need for speed putting you or others at risk?
I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Dr Jenny Brockis is a medical practitioner and board-certified lifestyle medicine physician, keynote speaker and best-selling author. Her new book Thriving Mind: How to Cultivate a Good Life (Wiley) is now available for purchase
If burning out is a topic on your mind, I’d love to have you to join me in my monthly virtual Masterclass “Feeling Good, Doing Great” which is all about leading to make burnout redundant on Thursday, June 23rd. You can book your seat here.